Mon
May 11 2009 3:52pm

Craig Engler from SciFi talks Syfy

When the Sci Fi Channel announced its name change to “Syfy”, many of us had a few cows. Loudly. So loudly, in fact, that Craig Engler, Sr. VP and General Manager of SciFi Digital (and @craigatscifi on Twitter, where things tend to get particularly loud) got wind of our ramblings and offered to answer any questions we may have. Craig’s a very approachable guy, and after he sent me his answers we had a very pleasant conversation, in which he said that he’d be willing to lurk around the comments thread to this post during the week, and answer some of the questions and comments you guys leave here by this Friday.

Pablo Defendini: Could you give us a quick overview of the goal of this rebrand? It’s evident that a large part of it involves having a brand that is “ownable”, that can be trademarked and deployed across media and geographic regions without fear of its being degraded into a generic adjective, but what else went into deciding to go with “Syfy” in particular, instead of a completely new name? Aside from what you’ve already discussed in your press release, what does the tag line “Imagine Greater” mean to you, personally?

Craig Engler: In addition to being able to own Syfy, there are three key reasons for the change:

1.      We needed a brand that’s portable and can work in places like Netflix, iTunes and on DVRs. In those environments we can find ourselves competing for space on a text-based menu system where “sci-fi” and “Sci Fi” are indistinguishable.

2.      We needed a brand that can support new businesses, like Syfy Games and Syfy Kids. (More on this one below.)

3.      We needed a brand that’s seen as inclusive to potential new viewers, and a brand that reflects the broad range of imagination-based entertainment you’ll find on our network.

Changing the name entirely was certainly on the table, but we have a 16-year history in the sci-fi space and we wanted to continue to embrace our legacy and our existing audience.  For us, Syfy is a way to do that.

To me, Imagine Greater is both a call to action and an invitation. I think Imagine Greater is for Syfy what Think Different is for Apple.

P.D.: How long did the incubation period for the rebrand last? In other words, how long have you guys been contemplating this switch?

C.E.: We’ve talked about changing the name since I’ve been with the network, which is more than 10 years now. That’s because the word “sci-fi” has tremendous positives for those who know and love it, but it’s a polarizing word for those who don’t.  We’ve literally had people tell us they love movies like Star Wars and The Matrix but they don’t like “sci-fi.” It’s a confusing issue and one we deal with on a daily basis.

We specifically began considering Syfy about a year ago, when Michael Engleman joined the network as our new VP of Creative. It was a great time for us to get the perspective of someone new, and Michael happens to be a creative genius, which helps enormously.

P.D.: David Howe (president of SciFi) has mentioned that you guys focus-grouped the “Syfy” name with a contingent of “18-to-34 techno-savvy” individuals. Could you expand a bit on the type of research that you guys did? Was it limited to focus groups, or did you employ additional techniques?

C.E.: Syfy went through in incredibly wide range of testing, both through the considerable internal research resources we have as a TV company, and with different consulting agencies. We tested it with hardcore genre fans, casual viewers and people who don’t or rarely watch the network. We continue to test aspects of it today, and in all likelihood we’ll keep testing it for years to come, as we’ve tested Sci Fi regularly for 16 years.

P.D.: Ken Runkel has said on the Landor Associates blog that Landor (NBC/Universal’s branding consultants) had nothing to do with coming up with the name, that despite their coming up with alternatives, you decided to go with “Syfy”, which was an internally-generated term. I assume that Landor did their research, and presented you with options, and rationales as to why they thought they had better suggestions than “Syfy”. Why did you decide to not take their recommendations, or otherwise disregard these types of concerns?

C.E.: You hire a consulting agency to get an outside perspective on what you’re working on, but you don’t hire them with the idea that you’ll just do whatever they suggest. Their ideas are one factor in the equation, but there are still many other variables.  In the case of Landor, the names they came up with really confirmed for us that Syfy was the best choice to meet all our goals.

P.D.: Much has been made about former SciFi Channel employee Tim Brooks’ negative comments about the way SciFi views their audience. Would you like to respond to this? What do you view the channel's core audience as?

C.E.: Tim Brooks has not worked here in about 10 years and his suggestion that we wanted to distance ourselves from an audience he called “geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements” is completely wrong, as well as insulting to our viewers. Syfy is meant to be inclusive, not exclusive. We’re not distancing ourselves from anyone, we’re inviting more people along for the ride.

P.D.: In your official press release, you mention that part of the rationale behind the rebrand is to create an umbrella brand that encompasses Games, Films, etc. Could you expand upon this a bit? What makes “Syfy Games” different from “SciFi Games”, especially when said out loud?

C.E.: When you go to a brick and mortar game store and browse the shelves, or visit an online retailer and sort through their collection of sci-fi games, the name Syfy will be instantly recognizable as our brand, where the name Sci Fi isn’t. Is it a sci-fi game or a Sci Fi game? We’ve already seen countless examples across all media where this confusion can exist, and those will only grow over time. These situations don’t typically arise for the spoken version of the name.

P.D.: The fan response to the branding has been less than stellar, but that’s always to be expected, to a certain degree, with big rebrandings. Were there any fears of alienating your core audience with this move, especially in light of criticism you’ve received in the past regarding the non-speculative fiction programming—such as wrestling and reality programming—that seems to occupy a substantial portion of your schedule? Do you consider the viewers who tune into BSG to be the same audience that watches WWE?

C.E.: We expected the first reaction from many people to be “why?” and “that makes no sense” when we announced the change. It’s par for the course.  We actually had a much stronger online reaction to another change we announced a while back, when we said we were going to remake Battlestar Galactica, and the character of Starbuck would be a woman instead of a man. Had we only listened to the one vocal segment of our audience who hated the idea, we would never had made what some people think is one of the best sci-fi shows in history. You have to look at all the feedback you’re getting across the board and take it as a whole. Online feedback is important as long as it’s considered with all the feedback we receive, not just by itself.

In terms of Battlestar and wrestling, some viewers enjoy both of them, while others only enjoy one or the other. The same holds true when you compare dramatic shows too. Some people only like Star Trek, others only like Battlestar, some love both, and some don’t watch either. Our audience is incredibly diverse, even among core sci-fi fans, so it’s important to offer a broad range of programming. For instance, although some people don’t like reality shows, or don’t think they belong on our network, there are literally millions of people who love Ghost Hunters and thinks it’s a perfect fit for us. That’s why we have a mix of reality shows, scripted dramas, movies, fantasy sports, etc.

P.D.: Do you believe that the Syfy rebrand will draw new audiences simply by presenting a fresh face to potential viewers, but continuing to show the same type of programming, or is the rebrand a harbinger for a larger change in the format for the channel?

C.E.: This isn’t about changing our programming mix, it’s about evolving our brand to catch up with where our programming already is today. We want more people to watch and enjoy the great sci-fi shows we’re already making, and Syfy is another piece of the puzzle to help make that happen.  It’s not the only piece, but it’s an important one.  At the end of the day, everything works together: branding, programming, scheduling, public relations, digital, etc.

So no, the brand evolution is not a harbinger for some vastly different programming strategy.

P.D.: When the SciFi Channel launched, many viewers considered it a haven for speculative programming in general, and fans have been heartened by your syndication of shows like Star Trek, Firefly, and Sliders—shows that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. Do you still consider this part of your mission?

C.E.: Absolutely. We have a great lineup of shows on the network, from favorites like Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation to new shows like Eureka and Sanctuary. We’ve also announced three new scripted dramas that will air in the coming months, and all of them are sci-fi shows, along with TV events like Riverworld and The Phantom. We think this is a fantastic lineup of new and returning sci-fi shows, and we're developing even more for the future.

P.D.: Additionally, would you consider making offers to continue production for shows that have had amazing fan responses, but have suffered under the expectations of major network numbers, and are facing possible cancellation? For example, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is struggling for ratings on Friday nights on a major network, but its numbers compare favorably to, say, Battlestar Galactica’s numbers. Is this the type of thing you guys consider when thinking about programming? Why or why not?

C.E.: We look at all opportunities that come our way and evaluate each of them on a case-by-case basis. Some of the many things we’d consider in the case of a show coming off another network is, how would that show rate on our network vs the network it came from, how much would it cost us to make, what would we have to give up to be able to make it, how does it fit with our programming and brand strategy, what is the show’s audience demographic, etc. There are dozens if not hundreds of variables that go into any decision about any show, which is true for all TV networks. Behind the scenes it’s an intensely complicated and comprehensive process.

P.D.: Going forward, it’s perfectly clear that the future of television is not in the linear, scheduled, geographically limited channel model. More and more, people are consuming their television a la carte, through iTunes, Hulu, or—when offered no compelling alternatives—through torrents. While this does greatly upset a traditional network’s apple cart, and it presents some serious challenges to the way that television networks have traditionally operated, it also offers great opportunities for dedicated producers to create highly targeted, niche-specific programing, at much higher efficiencies that the current general broadcast model. How do you see Syfy adapting to the realities of the changing media landscape?

C.E.: We’re continually adapting to it, and this week’s launch of the Caprica pilot on DVD and iTunes is a great example of how we’re experimenting with changing the existing model. We’re making a TV show that’s not launching until 2010 and yet here we are in 2009 and we’ve put the pilot out there for all to see. We think it’s a great way to build buzz for the series and get initial reactions to the show. 

It’s important to keep in mind that cable TV is doing tremendously well right now, and in 2008 Sci Fi had its best year ever both on air and online. All of these changes bring with them new opportunities, and Syfy is about helping us take advantage of the new TV landscape so we can grow beyond No. 5. As great as No. 5 is, we think a network with a lineup that includes some of the best sci-fi series on TV can and should be No. 1.

35 comments
seth johnson
1. seth
How does it feel to be walking in the footsteps of the marketing wizards who came up with 'New Coke?' Are any of their descendants working on your consultant's staff?

Appreciatively,

Seth
jafoca
3. jafoca
Well I have to say that after reading this I am mildly relieved.

I am glad to hear that this change is not a harbinger for a drastic shift in programming, because I think I fall in the "core" fanbase that likes SciFi for the ACTUAL SciFi.

I, for one, actually watch some of the Reality stuff in addition to the Trek, BSG, and Stargate, however the programming that really frightens me on SciFi is the wrestling. That stuff seems only fit for Spike and other such stations, but SciFi? What?

The name change initially really worried me. I have to pay extra to upgrade my cable package in my area just to get SciFi at all (which I do, for SciFi alone), and I was quite worried their would be more of a shift towards the reality / ?wrestling ? side of things. But now that it is explained better, I can definitely see the need for a unique name so as not to get drowned out by the other chatter.

Oh, one last comment - I would say that comparing BSG decisions to this branding decision is a bit contrived. The decision to make Starbuck a woman, and to remake the series benefited many people (like me) who became fans and were not before - the change to SyFy seems like it will benefit mostly the commercial interests behind the brand.

Anyhow - thanks for taking the time to clear some things up, it is appreciated. I am waiting anxiously for the next great SciFi show that will be on SyFy - and suggest you take a long hard look at SCC and Dollhouse.
jafoca
4. tlight
I was someone who was a very devout fan of SciFi in its formative years. I was a fan of the syndicated shows and the new programming that SciFi brought to the table.
But I have drifted from the channel in the last few years as the station has begun to focus on other areas. I understand that ratings is an all-consuming master, but the inclusion of more general programming has been a factor that has turned me away.
Also, I felt that the level of SciFi's own original programming had grown sub-par over the years, especially the movies that were coming out under the SciFi moniker. I felt that some of these funds would be better spent on re-syndication of former shows, or at least more prominent showing of these.
I'm glad to see that recent years have seen an increase in quality original programming and look forward to hearing about what is coming next.
jafoca
5. tnsabregirl
I can understand the desire to be inclusive, not exclusive, and I also understand that SyFy has to get ratings and advertising to survive. I'm not sure I'm optimistic enough to believe that those goals are entirely compatible with the desires of those of us who watch the channel for actual science fiction programming (BSG seemed more a departure from Sci-Fi's normal programming, if anything).

I, like some of the other posters, find myself changing the channel to Discover or the Science Channel when I find wrestling or the latest-cheap-horror-flick-du-jour on yet again.

Well, I guess that's why we have iTunes and vast DVD collections.
T C
6. Freelancer
A very candid interview, no hedging or wait-and-see answers, that is much appreciated.

As others have already posted, I wonder where wrestling and other pseudo-reality entertainment is supposed to fit in the Sci-Fi concept, and would hope that the network would steer away from such to the extent they are able. To go with that, it often seems that low-rent fright movies are broadcast as fillers, while more significant works that are truly within the genre are ignored.

Sci Fi has proved itself in the past to be fully capable of producing very good quality material, without compromising the genre. Hold to that, and the base will remain strong.
seth johnson
7. seth
Pablo,

I don't mean to come across as one of those loudmouth internet anonymous jerks. But sometimes I do and I feel bad for it.

This isn't one of those times, though. This whole psyphi thing is lacking veneer. It's so obvious. It's been played out in so many consumer categories. I've actually been in those meetings before.

The organization is struggling for profits. Stockholders or owners are pressuring leadership to do 'something' to increase revenue. Then there's this guy who appears. He might be hired as a consultant, or brought in by the board of directors in some capacity. This guy stands up and he's got a whole powerpoint presentation about the new direction for the organization. It's got new names for old products. Plenty of charts showing consumer dissatisfaction with the old and interest in the new. The new thing interfaces with all these other developing trends. It all makes so much sense on paper....

But, I'm from the old school. I subscribe to the strategy of strengthening your organization where you've enjoyed proven success. I refuse to cut the old brand and it's loyal base in a desperate leap in the hopes that a new base will catch the organization. I've seen too many hard falls from that with few successes.

Where was sci-fi channel when Lucas was looking for a buyer of his dumb clone wars cartoon series? Where was sci-fi channel when all this comic book and manga-related animation got popular? They should have been ordering content like Cartoon Network did. Heck, after the Transformers movie hit pay dirt last year, did Sci-Fi network look into acquiring the rights to the old series or broker talks of launching a new one based on the movie?

Nope. They're busy re-arranging deck chairs and printing new business cards.

Seth
jafoca
8. CraigEngler
No worries Pablo, I haven't seen anything yet I can't answer. I'll see how many more questions come up in the next few days, then post a comment with some answers on Fri. Thanks again for the interview and the good questions. --c
Justin Adair
9. Hobbyns
Not a huge fan of the changed name, but it's growing on me.

I just can't help recalling the unveiling of this strange device that Nintendo insisted on calling the "Wii" awhile back. Everyone assumed it was a joke. Now it's a widely used and accepted word, with many clever play-on-words adaptions to go with it.

No one really likes change, but give it a few years.
Sean Sakamoto
10. ssakamoto
I love the Sci-fi channel, and I understand the need to grow a business. Mr. Engler made a great point about ignoring vocal critics when BSG was first re-made.

That said, I worked as a copywriter for a bunch of dotcoms.

When I read about "Imagine Greater" being a "call to action" I was transported back to airy conference rooms with unpainted concrete walls, pricey brushed steel railings, Herman Miller Aeron chairs, and marketing folks, myself included, wearing blue shirts and khakis, and yakking about taglines and brand strategy.

The phrase "call to action" is a staple of every single tagline pitch session. My experience was that the more companies put into distilling their core competency, chasing markets beyond the low-hanging fruit, leveraging their unique selling proposition (USP), growing the brand across verticles, and blahdey blahdey blah, the more they seemed to get away from actually doing something that their customers want.

I was surprised that this kind of brand strategy thinking has seeped through the floorboards of the Syfy network. You guys make great shows. Keep making good shows. Please don't blow millions, and I'm sure this did cost millions, on brand management. Why not make fantastic programs, and let those drive your brand?

I can live with the syfy name. I could actually live with any name, as long as the shows are good I don't care what you call your network. Nobody watched ABC because it was called ABC.

I think the best proof is Battlestar Galactica itself. The thought of a remake initially left me cold. I had to overcome that name to watch the show, and I loved the show. Lead with great stuff, and don't spend so much on the marketing. I'm not convinced that marketing will give your network any lasting bump, and if you don't have the shows to back it up, no amount of marketing will do you any good.

I want you to succeed because I love your network and I like your shows. I want to see more. Good luck!
Blue Tyson
11. BlueTyson
9

Wii is funny though, when you look at it like that.

SyFy sounds like something an annoying rich woman would call her shitty little ratdog anklebiter.
Pablo Defendini
12. pablodefendini
Seth, Ssakamoto,

You guys bring back so many memories. I started my career working in advertising as an art director for, among others, J. Walter Thompson during the heydey of the branding craze of the '90's—JWT in particular took it to new levels. I've sat in on those kinds of meetings as well.

That's one of the reasons I'm so interested in this re-brand.
james loyd
13. gaijin
What's so bad about trademarking "SciFi Channel"? That, coupled with your easily recognizable logo, would have clearly distinguished your material from the rest of the general sci-fi genre.

I mean, the word "discovery" is used all the time in myriad contexts, but if you said "Discovery Channel" everybody instantly knows exactly which media outlet you're referencing.

Wait. Let me guess. "Channel" doesn't fit with your plans to release games, films, books, clothing, diet plans, home appliances, etc. Irrelevant. Like above, slap a "Discovery Channel" logo on a product and there's no confusion who's selling it.

Also, I can't believe I'm the first to mention it in this thread, but what's your reaction to the STD connotation of "syfy" in Polish? Please don't tell me nobody came across that before the new name was approved. Did you even run it through multiple search engines? Shoddy research doesn't go over well with your fan base...if you really do want to keep the same fan base.
seth johnson
14. seth
Mr. Engler,

Here's a question instead of a criticism.

Why does it make sense to dilute your viewing demograph? The highest ad rates are charged for the tightest demographic exposure, and that's especially true when that demograph happens to be educated, well-paid, and has lots of disposable income.

If the typical Sci-Fi channel viewer is this socially inept computer nerd, I can think of hundreds of advertisers who would be keen on pitching their products on the Sci-Fi channel.

When you talk about how the name change opens the channel to more people, it seems like you are unfocusing the demograph. This is compounded by content selection such as wrestling, which is the opposite of science fiction.

Cordially,

Seth
Kurt Lorey
15. Shimrod
So, the real result of the focus groups was that 18-34 year techno-savvy geeks can't spell? Imagine that.


...we would never had made what some people think is one of the best sci-fi shows in history.

You mean, until the final episode? I put five seasons into the new BSG - then WHAM! I am still let down, and very leery of committing my time to a new SyFy TV series right now. And I was on the Starbuck as a woman? Cool! bandwagon, too.


Snarky comments aside (an opportunity I refuse to pass up), I don't care whether you guys call the channel SciFi, SyFy or SuperTV. It will always be the overall quality of the programming that will bring me to watch your channel, or not.

P.S. But, thanks very much for being brave enough to venture over here! ;)
Jason Ramboz
16. jramboz
There's a maxim that I struggle every day to live by:

"Try to please everyone, and you'll end up pleasing no one."

I don't know if I heard that somewhere, or if it just popped into my head of its own accord years ago. If no one's yet claimed it, I propose we call it "Ramboz' Law." (Now excuse me for a moment while I remove my tongue from my cheek.)

I thought the whole idea of having a "brand" as such is to make you unique and identifiable. If your content becomes so diverse and hodgepodge that he only way people can distinguish it is by the logo, then I think you've failed. Failed not only to successfully brand yourselves, but also to obtain any kind of devoted audience. I'm afraid what will happen is that the SF fans will move away from the network because it's too eclectic, but non-fans will still see it as too genre. And you've pleased no one.
Irene Gallo
17. Irene
Jramboz:
"There's a maxim that I struggle every day to live by: Try to please everyone, and you'll end up pleasing no one."

The unfortunate version that I use to describe some meetings: Nobody is happy until everyone is unhappy equally.
Christopher Key
19. Artanian
If the product and content are good enough, you guys will survive this horrible name change. Heck, look how well the Nintendo Wii is doing with what was probably one of the worst product names in history.

Having said that, naming it the syphilis network does seem to be an unforced error.
jafoca
20. Darkling
This is double talking political speech for everything we've heard before. Honestly you must think we're think. You talk about the negative comments made by Tim Brooks but you just pretty much repeated what he said in a more politically correct way.

'That’s because the word “sci-fi” has tremendous positives for those who know and love it, but it’s a polarizing word for those who don’t. We’ve literally had people tell us they love movies like Star Wars and The Matrix but they don’t like “sci-fi.”'

So... you're trying to appeal to the lowest demographic! Bravo! By the way, that's sarcasm.

Honestly, everything said in this article, the poor justifications and double talk, it disgusts me. Of course I haven't really watched this 'great' channel since The Dresden Files was not renewed. You had the rights to a best selling book series that still makes the New York Times best seller list and a graphic novel that tied in the show and books gets nominated for a Hugo award and yet you kill the show after twelve episodes. WHAT were you thinking?!

You execs give me a headache...
jafoca
21. Darkling
Here's a question WHO does the constant reality TV filler appeal to?! You could make so many good scripted shows but instead, to save money, you keep churning out reality TV that no one is really interested in? I counted ten reality shows (including Ghosthunters and wrestling if they count) and there's more to come! Three scripted shows against ten reality shows is NOT impressive to me.

You're treating us like we're all naive children who will accept whatever we're spoon fed.
jafoca
22. tlight
The more I think about this, the more it seems to be an attempt to try and maintain a hold on what you would previously call your "demographic" while trying to expand your base. You came into this interview knowing full well the type of people who would respond on this website. It's Tor.com for goodness sakes!

I agree with ssakamoto, the shows should sell your channel, not the channel sell your shows (sorry for the awkward sentence structure). I think that if you come out with three new sci-fi related shows, and 5 new reality shows, you're going to alienate a lot of your former demographic. And let's not talk about if the sci-fi shows are BAD.

I know this is a bit different from my original take, but I've let the whole thing sit for a while and this just seems more like a chance to placate your original demographic while you pull the rug out from under them (more so than you have in the past).

Well, I guess I should actually attach a question to this rather than spout vitriol. Can you give us hard numbers in relation to your sci-fi versus your reality programming, in terms of viewers? I mean, if you've got "literally millions of viewers" who apparently love ghost hunters it must be one if not your top show. If that's the case, I understand why you feel you need to branch out. But don't try and pull the wool over the science fiction communities' eyes while doing it. We're a pretty observant bunch, and we don't take kindly to being lied to.
M R
23. Techslave
Mmm,

Not a fan of the name - though in some quarters, calling something 'sci-fi' is itself a subject of derision. Science Fiction, for the nitpickers.

Honestly, I'm also not a cable subscriber anymore. Can't and won't be. I work for a cable company, the fiance works for a satellite TV company, and neither of us misses surfing channels until we finally manage to 'settle' for something. I do miss good shows. We buy stuff on DVD. Yes, buy. Sure, we have NetFlix. But I also buy hardcover books. Call me a believer in supporting things I enjoy - but only those things, as directly as I can.

The Dresden Files? Not really a quality show, but I watched some episodes.
Battlestar Galactica: awesome. I haven't seen the ending yet (thank you, internet, for spoiling the ending and making my atheistic soul freaking CRINGE)
Otherwise...well. The original IPs coming out of SciFi(SyFy) have flailed to my view, not to mention simply new properties. Then again, I see a lot of 'lowest common denominator' happening in cable and television as a whole.

My question:
Will the newly rebranded SyFy commit to actual quality science fiction? Where is the Mystery Theater of science fiction and fantasy? 12 or 52 nights a year - a short story. No, you don't get reusable sets or CG, but you give people variety, and there are tens of thousands of stories capable of being transformed into worthwhile episodes.
If you want to be inclusive, that's fine - but you if you can't be inclusive AND retain quality, you don't deserve my dollars - which I do spend, on DVDS, books, and other things I enjoy. Sans commercials.
C C
24. Hatgirl
It think a lot of the backlash is because fans of science fiction felt SciFi was turning its back on its roots, and then it announced a rebranding.

If the Discovery Channel announced it was changing it's name to DysKovry to make its DVDs more recognisable and that it was going to introduce a range of books and games, I'd be more excited than apprehensive.

But SciFi started to drift away from SF a long time ago and this seems like the final nail in the coffin.
jafoca
25. AnotherFangirl
Hi Craig, I was resistant, bu I've come to accept the change. What I've been curious about lately is, Why hasn't the name change been mentioned on the SciFi Channel yet? I see commercials everyday for Eureka and Warehouse 13, but they say that they are going to be on SciFi when actually they will be air just after it becomes SyFy.
Josh Jasper
26. joshjasper
He's still incredibly dismissive of anyone who questions his wisdom. He's not even acknowledging that, unlike the BSG reboot, fans *still* think he's a tool after they've seen the "branding". BSG was a win because, after it came out, people *liked* it. No one really likes "Syfy" as a brand except the execs at Syfy. 99.99% of the world of sci fi fans think it's a joke. And those who don't are mostly saying it to be iconoclastic.

And that's the problem, there's no "And if we failed, this is what it'd look like". It's a declaration of victory in all situations. That's not "art of war", it's G. W. Bush and his "Mission Accomplished" banner.

What he's not saying out loud is, he doesn't *care* if we think he looks like a joke now, or even ten years from now.
jafoca
27. Darkling
Yes, the SciFi channel seems to be turning it's back on it's original viewers. I watched from the beginning and I can tell you in 1999 / 2000 the SciFi channel lost a LOT of quality. They dropped anime (only recently getting it back). They dropped a lot of classic shows at that time with the excuse that they didn't want to carry anything that wasn't yet on DVD. That included (at the time) Forever Knight (because Season 3 wasn't out yet), Highlander the series, Dark Shadows and several other shows that had been on Scifi for years. Dark Shadows had been the very first show to air on the SciFi Channel and they dropped it. Now Chiller Channel has it. They don't seem to mind the "generic' quality of their channel name. That same year they canceled Mystery Science Theatre (Claiming the movie rights were too expensive). They could have spoofed their own SciFi Channel movies! They also dropped Scifi Buzz, which had been on the air since the start of the channel. The first and only SciFi news show and they canceled it in 2000 and that's about the time they decided to toy with this name change? That's also when they started these weekday line up mini-marathons. I think we can pinpoint that ten years ago is when they stopped caring about their original audience. That's when the channel's original founders sold their souls to NBC / Universal.

Now for TechSlave, actually, all things considered, if you compare Dresden Files to the other new wizard shows out there, The Dresden Files was really high quality. Not only was it the first wizard show to air since Harry Potter mania but every spell and sigil was actually researched and based on real occult belief. That impressed me. You didn't see that with Charmed. They had a Tony Award winning Broadway icon playing a ghost, the woman playing Murphy was nominated for an ALMA, the boy from the first episode got nominated for a young actors award and what a lot of people don't realize (and this has been confirmed by multiple sources on the subject) there were times when Dresden beat Battlestar Galactica in the ratings. It was the third highest rated show on SciFi for all of 2007. And it was cheaper to make than Scare Tactics but they brought THAT back instead of simply renewing Dresden Files. More mind numbing Unreality reality TV that is so obviously faked it looks like Jerry Springer dreamed it up.
jafoca
28. @brynnan
My issues is not with changing the name at all. No problem there. My issue is why would you go with something silly? Really? Syfy? "Siffy"? I would of been much better with a name like PsyFi, which in my opinion even better fits with your new tagline of "Imagine Greater"

Anything brandable would of been fit everything you have said, but you made the wrong choice. All of the reasonings put forth can be equally applied to any brandable rename.

Just not "Siffy" Grandly poor choice, and far from being "COOL". It's not cool.
jafoca
29. Brainstorms
The first I heard of this name change was right before April Fool's day. I thought it was an elaborate prank. It wasn't funny. Then I heard it was supposed to be serious. That was funny.

Any way, are you going to continue to carry Science fiction shows? Or are you going to the reality junk? It appears you are going the reality way. You only have, what 3 new SciFi shows and about 9 reality things (including WRESTLING - it is fiction but not SciFi). You could have had 4 but somehow SG: Atlantis got killed.
jafoca
30. Darkling
PsyFi or even Psi-Fi or Sci-Fy (science fiction and fantasy) definitely would have sounded a lot better than SyFy, the Syphilis channel. During this spin control they claimed pronunciation was also an issue and the new one obviously is pronounced the same as the old. Really? Syfy looks like Siffy to me.
M R
31. Techslave
@27 - Darkling
I'm impressed with researched occult sigils and adequate ratings, but my major peeves involve characters (Sorry, I didn't like the guy who played Dresden. No truly valid reason, as far as I could tell. Just didn't like him) and writing. The writing was...adequate?
I've a feeling that the Dresden Files was more expensive than it appeared to be, or there were licensing rights/discussions and someone with deeper pockets decided to option the work from Jim Butcher. Never know.

But don't get me started on Charmed, which I felt was soap opera with (more) magical powers, attractive leads, and as near as I could tell only five sets to work off.

That said, I will NOT watch reality TV. My girlfriend has headphones to watch it online, which I am grateful for. I don't care how cheap it is to make, or how popular it is. It makes me grind my teeth and gives me stupidity-induced headaches. See, scripted characters have to do stupid things to A) move the plot, B) stay in character, C) because of bad writing, and D) due to poor direction.
Reality TV?

You've got attention-seekers with less than half a wit, self-acclaimed experts, and other parasites thrown a spotlight and a microphone.
None of them can blame the script, or the writer, or their character, or the director. Then, to make them come across as even more stupid, backstabbing, vapid, and dramatic - the folks with the heavy handed editing-room experience spend their energy creating a dramatic, conflict-filled 'timeline' of the footage.
jafoca
32. Darkling
Techslave, in regard to The Dresden Files the head writer was Robert Hewitt Wolfe. That was the man who did Andromeda. One of the other writers, David Simkins is now doing Warehouse 13. One of those 'great new shows' being talked about. Those THREE scripted shows coming out amid several reality shows. Robert Wolfe is still working for 'Syfy' too. He's doing Riverworld. And the episode Storm Front was based off Jim Butcher's first novel. I actually kind of liked the writing in Dresden Files. As for the rights, I checked. The rights don't fall back to Jim Butcher until 2012. 'Syfy' is just letting them go to waste. Paul Blackthorne (whom played Harry Dresden) in my opinion did a good job. He was British putting on an American accent and I wouldn't have noticed it was a false American accent if I hadn't been told. He also had the right body (standing almost six and a half feet tall) and appearance for the character. He's a pretty good actor.

Charmed, toward the end, stole from several fantasy films and was pretty much like a bad game of dress up. The writing had more continuity errors than I'd care to count. Sad that Charmed endured but Dresden wasn't given a fare chance...


Another kick in the teeth for Dresden Files fans was when the pilot script for Warehouse 13 (yet again... one of these 'great' new shows) was leaked and we Dresden fans saw it. They had taken the character of Bob from The Dresden Files. One of the most loved characters of the show (though he had been revised from his book counterpart into a more sympathetic being played by a Broadway star). They have revised him for Warehouse 13! De-aged him about twenty years, renamed him Sam and bound him to a wallet instead of a skull! Otherwise he's the same character! They didn't continue The Dresden Files but they took one of the writers, two cast members and stole a plot device from it for one of their new shows!? Why? Is it that hard to admit not renewing The Dresden Files was a mistake?

So THIS is what we Scifi and fantasy fans have to look forward to? A bad rip-off of a character from a show Scifi didn't give a proper chance? I have no interest in Sam, the wallet bound ghost of Warehouse 13. I liked Bob! As a Dresden Files fan I am insulted and disgusted by what they're doing with Warehouse 13. This is one of the shows they're proud of. And they're listing it on their top shows list even though it hasn't even aired yet! Top how?

This entire Q and A here, it's spin control. It's a rewording of everything we were told before. They're afraid of the negative ideas associated with Scifi and that's exactly what the 'former employee' said. And at least two replies in this 'article' are just rewording that 'Syfy is easier to copyright.' Well, people wouldn't be confused by the difference between the genre and the channel if you slapped the words 'Scifi Channel' on the product the way other channels do that have generic base names. We're being spoon fed repetition and spin control. I am bitter about The Dresden Files and I am bitter that we're being treated like we're simple. I miss the Scifi Channel the way it used to be and I miss being respected as an intelligent viewer.
jafoca
33. Darkling
Typo above, that should say fair not fare.
jafoca
34. CraigEngler
Thanks everyone for the questions and comments. In an effort to keep the follow-up reasonably brief, I’ve picked out what seemed to be the serious questions to answer, and added a few final notes at the end.


Q - Where was sci-fi channel when all this comic book and manga-related animation got popular?

A - We’ve had anime on the channel for years in many different incarnations, including our current Ani-Monday lineup.


Q - Heck, after the Transformers movie hit pay dirt last year, did Sci-Fi network look into acquiring the rights to the old series or broker talks of launching a new one based on the movie?

A - I don’t remember if we specifically looked at Transformers at the time, but even if the rights were obtainable, I doubt the old cartoon or a new version would do very well on our air, at least in the timeslots we’d need it to perform in. There are very few animated series that do well in prime-time.


Q - Why not make fantastic programs, and let those drive your brand?

A - We try to make all our programs fantastic. And yes, shows are a huge driver of our brand. But even the best program needs a place to air, especially a place that new viewers can easily find and that’s open and inviting to a wide variety of people.


Q - What's so bad about trademarking SciFi Channel?

A - We can’t. And in some countries we actually compete with another channel named sci-fi.


Q - Also, I can't believe I'm the first to mention it in this thread, but what's your reaction to the STD connotation of "syfy" in Polish?

A - We were aware of the various things syfy means in Polish before we settled on it. It’s not an issue in any territory we’re in except Poland, where the network will remain Sci Fi.


Q - Why does it make sense to dilute your viewing demograph?

A - We’re not, we’re growing our audience.


Q - Can you give us hard numbers in relation to your sci-fi versus your reality programming, in terms of viewers? I mean, if you've got "literally millions of viewers" who apparently love ghost hunters it must be one if not your top show.

A - In household ratings Ghost Hunters was our #2 show last year, and so far it’s doing incredibly well this year. The first half of season 5 (which ended in April) was its best yet, averaging 2.9 million viewers per episode. It was the #2 reality show on all of cable for its 8 week run.


Q - Will the newly rebranded SyFy commit to actual quality science fiction?

A - Absolutely. Warehouse 13, Stargate Universe and Caprica are the next three shows that will be joining our lineup. They are all science fiction and all excellent.


Q - Why hasn't the name change been mentioned on the SciFi Channel yet?

A - As we get close to the launch date of July 7, you’ll start seeing more noise about the change.


Q - During this spin control they claimed pronunciation was also an issue and the new one obviously is pronounced the same as the old. Really?

A - I don’t think we claimed pronunciation was an issue, but if I’m wrong please point me to where you saw that mentioned and I’ll check it out. Interestingly (to me anyway), neither sci-fi or Sci Fi are pronounced the way they are spelled, but thanks to Forry Ackerman we all know the “correct” way to say them.


That wraps up the questions. Just to follow up on a few comments:

Darkling, we love The Dresden Files too and I wish there were more people like you and I who enjoyed and watched the show. Had the ratings been better we could have continued it. There is no TV show we make that we don’t want to succeed.

Hobbyns, the Wii is a great example of branding before and after. Right now we’re still in the early stages of the “before” for Syfy. After people see how the branding comes alive on air and they get to check out our new shows, I think a lot of questions will be answered and fears about change will be allayed.

Ssakamoto, I touched on this above, but marketing, TV shows and TV channels are inextricably linked, even more so now that other TV distribution platforms and other entertainment options are growing on a daily basis. Which is one of the reasons no show runner in the world ever thinks their show has enough marketing, or that the audience their show is available to shouldn’t be bigger.

Tlight, yes, we’re aware of who comes to Tor.com. In fact, I’m friends with many of the readers and writers here, and Sci Fi and Tor have had a long, successful partnership together (which will continue when we become Syfy).

Thanks again to everyone for the questions, and to Tor.com for hosting our Q&A. I enjoyed answering your questions and hope I was able to give you a little more insight into the upcoming change.

Best,

Craig
jafoca
35. Dragonmiss
"Darkling, we love The Dresden Files too and I wish there were more people like you and I who enjoyed and watched the show. Had the ratings been better we could have continued it. There is no TV show we make that we don’t want to succeed."

How many times do we need to point out to you guys that when it was airing, The Dresden Files was your #3 rated show... CONSISTANTLY... except for the one or two times it BEAT Battlestar Galactica as #1! You cannot keep feeding us this lame crap about poor ratings being the reason for it's non-renewal. We DID our research, we checked both your posted ratings and Neilsons and both told us the 'low ratings' excuse was an out and out LIE! Stop insulting our intelligence by repeating this fiction. As the series progressed it's ratings got even better. It's fandom keeps growing, Folks are watching it on Hulu. You blew it big time by letting this series go. Fess up and admit your mistake already instead of trying to convince us it was a flop. Painkiller Jane was a flop. Flash Gordon was a flop... NOT The Dresden Files!

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